Sunday, June 24, 2012

Reviewing Shame

According to Adam and Eve myth, shame  and guilt were 'born' after they had sex with each other. Thus with the invention of sex, human kind lost their innocence and were banished from Garden of Eden (guess this place is somewhere in heavens where gods live )  and perennially got doomed on earth as sinners.  This is what Genesis told its believers. Sex is sin. Sex is shame.

Since then human mind has tried to understand and define role of sex in human life. Many ancient myths have tried to grapple with the question of human sexuality. Is sex for procreation or pleasure? The fact remains, even after so many years of civilization and progress, human curiosity about sex has not diminished nor seem to have fully understood the complex nature of  human sexuality.

Movie Shame (2011) directed by Steve McQueen ( not to be mistaken for the famous Hollywood actor. ) attempts to comprehend  complex relationship between human psychology and sexual behavior. This tightly edited drama takes a peek into life of a successful financier Brandon ( Michael Fassbender) living in city of New York. Successful, ruthless and driven by ambition Brandon around 30, bachelor , lives life in fast lane, where there is very little time to form  real human bonds and relationship. In between his business meetings and  high night life, Brandon fills the gaps in his life through unending sexual acts that drowses his craving for sexual addiction. Be it a casual flirting in the train, masturbating in office restrooms to release the tension between stressful business meetings, one night stands or paid sex, Brandon indulges in every form of sexual gratification, living life of a bachelor who is on a prowl for sex in the city. His 'normal life' goes horribly wrong when his sister Sissy( Carry Mulligan) lands up in his bachelor's pad imposing on his freedom and privacy by intruding in his most intimate moments. Director McQeen through few deft scene etches out a tense and estranged relationship between a brother and a sister and how their proximity with each other rekindles trauma of their past life, reflected clearly through their sexual behavior.

When Sissy tells Brandon “We are not bad people. We just come from bad place” seems to be the crux of the movie, where director tries to show the complexity of human mind and its relation with sexuality. McQueen remains an onlooker to a situation, who happens to map the human mind through intimate and dark secrets of human life in contemporary society. The movie ends without any definite closure and questions remain unanswered.

Movie Shame is highly acclaimed on most of the international film festival circuits and has received  rave reviews. Its unusual story narration revealing a dark side of human psychology , great acting, and deft direction,  makes it stand apart.  Shame belongs to actor Michael Fassbender. His brilliant portrayal of Brandon, gives a convincing view of mind of sexual addict through his stoic behavior towards his partners. His self hatred is palpable when he shouts in helpless anger at Sissy who snuggles in his bed for intimacy. But as Sissy attempts suicide, Brandon brakes down exposing his emotional vulnerability. Fassbender brings Brandon to life.

Dan Bullock of Hollywood news sums the shame as “ is captivating and immensely that explores the depth of addiction and consequential destruction and demise of mind and although it is sometimes difficult to watch, you won't be able to keep your eyes off” .
Indeed so stark is the nudity in the film that it can be mistaken for porn flick.  But such a visceral visuals  can be expected from a fine artist. Steve McQeen the director of the Shame is not a regular film maker. ( his first film Hunger is also highly acclaimed) He is an acclaimed visual artist, winner of Turner prize and has represented British art in prestigious Venice Biennial in 2009 . He was an official war artist of Iraq. ( For me)This makes a lot of difference as director/artist shows a view of dark human nature without tipping it to disgust,  despair and titillation. There is beauty hidden even in stark moments.

Finally Shame is not about sex. Shame is not about sexual addiction either. Movie Shame for me is about reflection of human condition in contemporary urban society. Dark, violent, rootless and mind that is fast loosing it moorings.
Watch it if you can.